Killer Crocodile

You know you’re in trouble when your POV killer croc title sequence is juxtaposed with the phrase, “the crocodile was created and built by _________.” Please, for the sake of whatever smidgen of suspension of disbelief we still have left, hold off until the closing credits, will ya?!

Killer Crocodile’s title (if not reputation) precedes it. As you might have guessed, it’s yet another um, killer crocodile movie with the distinction being that it’s got the best Search Engine Optimized name. And delivers on its title promise.

We meet an amorous couple in the tropics, the male half of whom must be some kind of magician as he gets high notes to come out of the bass string of his guitar as he gently plucks sweet nothings to his paramour. Within seconds she interrupts this intimate moment by doffing her top  and charging the beach like its Normandy. She frolics about, then waves, coaxing him to join her.

Next thing you know, she’s dinner.

An ecologist (who resembles Greg Sestero from The Room), his lab assistant, a local guide, a photographer (and their little dog too) are paddling through a swamp that’s apparently been poisoned by the local plant. One of them dons a bio-hazard suit and jumps into the muddy river, Geiger counter in tow, apparently to see if metal barrels clearly marked “radioactive,” are indeed so. Gotta admire their due diligence.

Radioactivity is the springboard, for, I don’t know…a thousand creature feature movies? And it’s a pretty good, if incredibly lazy conceit for screenwriters to fall back on.

From there the natural horror devolves into, “has anyone seen __________?” and the time-honored, “you don’t think something’s happened to her, do you?” Don’t worry…”

And there’s lots of speculation about why people are going missing, and washing ashore. At first the carnage is mis-attributed to a boating accident, which is extremely weird unless the coroner is a graduate of the Dr. Nick Riviera School of Medicine.

Killer Crocodile is another hilariously inept Jaws variant, this time Italian, so ergo the bonus of awkward, stilted ADR. Director “Larry Ludman” sounds suspiciously like an Alan Smithee alternative, but it’s really the pseudonym of Frabrizio De Angelis, Umberto Lenzi/Lucio Fulci collaborator, best known for the Karate Kid knock-off, Il ragazzo del kimono d’oro (The Boy with the Golden Kimono).

Chomp down on this one. It’s kinda fun. And tune into our discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast.

*** (out of 5)

Unhinged

Radio dispatch exposition is a classic hoary film staple, second only to the spinning newspaper headline for shoving a plot forward.

In Unhinged, three college girls’ raunchy joke road trip banter is interrupted. Turns out, an escaped lunatic is on the loose. Back to “traffic and weather together on the 1s,” Led Zeppelin deep cuts and Morning Zoo blather.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, what was once balmy weather turns into a Gothic downpour, and slick precipitation pushes their little sedan into a ditch, accompanied by a burping synth score.

When they wake up, they’re being tended to by a battleaxe matriarch, her spinster Virginia Woolf tight-hair bun daughter, and their creepy manservant.

They’re forced to convalesce, and unfortunately their new sprawling mansion accommodations do not include a phone.

Later that evening, in a Lovecraftian gale-force, all the girls are treated to a dinner hosted by the matriarch, a proper finishing school Barbara Bush-styled ball-buster.

What do you get when you cross Mrs. Doubtfire with a former First Lady of the United States? This evil matriarch

So far so good, and the girls (Nancy, Gloria and Terry) make arrangements to notify the proper authorities in the morning and to get their car fixed. 

As she’s preparing to turn for the evening Terry finds a tooth under her bed, and more ominously, hears grunts and heavy breathing from nearby.

It’s the leering psycho-sexual elements that put Unhinged (1982) on the infamous Video Nasties list, although the rest of the film isn’t nearly that explicit.

Made for next to nothing (and a regional horror from the Pacific Northwest), Unhinged is an odd duck indeed. There are a few sleepy-eyed performances and more padding than an NFL locker room, but more importantly…there’s also gobs of atmosphere, a fun plot, a terrific soundtrack and a whiz-bang denouement.

Who knew?

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our Really Awful Movies Podcast discussion of Unhinged!]